An international study says depression affects nearly a third of all med students.

The review of nearly 200 studies involving 129,000 medical students in 47 countries found that the prevalence of depression or depressive symptoms was 27 per cent, 11 per cent reported suicidal ideation during medical school, and only about 16 per cent of students who screened positive for depression reportedly sought treatment.

“The present analysis builds on recent work demonstrating a high prevalence of depression among resident physicians,” the authors wrote.

“The concordance between the summary prevalence estimates (27.2 percent in students vs 28.8 percent in residents) suggests that depression is a problem affecting all levels of medical training.

“Taken together, these data suggest that depressive and suicidal symptoms in medical trainees may adversely affect the long-term health of physicians as well as the quality of care delivered in academic medical centres.

“Possible causes of depressive and suicidal symptomatology in medical students likely include stress and anxiety secondary to the competitiveness of medical school.

“Restructuring medical school curricula and student evaluations might ameliorate these stresses.

“Future research should also determine how strongly depression in medical school predicts depression during residency and whether interventions that reduce depression in medical students carry over in their effectiveness when those students transition to residency.

“Furthermore, efforts are continually needed to reduce barriers to mental health services, including addressing the stigma of depression.

“Further research is needed to identify strategies for preventing and treating these disorders in this population,” the researchers conclude.

The study is accessible here.